National unity plan 'impossible under Mugabe'

Analysts cast doubt on whether president would entertain Thabo Mbkei's idea of shared government
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With the threat of civil strife growing in Zimbabwe following President Robert Mugabe's victory in a flawed presidential election, a number of world leaders appear to be rallying behind a secret plan mooted by the South African president Thabo Mbeki for a government of national unity.

Political analysts are doubtful that such a plan can work in Zimbabwe's volatile political environment. "Definitely not," said University of Zimbabwe law professor Lovemore Madhuku. "A government of national unity cannot work simply because the nature and style of Mugabe's leadership will not make it work."

President Mugabe enjoys overweening powers under Zimbabwe's constitution which made him probably the most powerful president in the world in terms of the authority he exercises over his people.

That explains why he did not have to consult any of his cabinet ministers or Parliament before he made the controversial decision to deploy a third pf Zimbabwe's national army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It also explains why President Mugabe has over the last two years ruled Zimbabwe under an unofficial state of emergency, issuing decrees to overide the courts, firing judges and usurping the legislature. President Mugabe is not amenable to criticism.

Professor Madhuku said: "Unless [Morgan] Tsvangirai and his MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] guys are willing to be mere stooges without any influence in such a government of national unity, I simply don't see how it can be sustainable.

The former Industry and International Trade Minister Nkosana Moyo, who fled Zimbabwe, is a good indicator of how a government of national unity under Mugabe might work. Moyo, a respected banker, was brought into cabinet to revive the ailing industrial sector and add a new flair to a Mugabe cabinet stuffed with liberation war allies. But soon after Moyo started speaking publicly against the 78-year-old president's command economy policies like price control and a fixed exchange rate system, his destiny was set.

"Moyo's story is a good example of how non-stooges cannot co-habit with Mugabe. With their enthusiam to do things differently, I don't see fresh opposition guys lasting in such a Cabinet."

While Mr Tsvangirai is thought to be open to the idea of a government of national unity, it is unlikely President Mugabe is. He refused to accomodate the opposition in his cabinet after it almost beat his ruling Zanu-PF party in the June 2000 parliamentary elections, winning 57 of the 120 contested seats.

However, Professor Masipula Sithole of the University of Zimbabwe, thinks the president might now be prepared to consider the option. "Circumstances have changed and the man is so desperate to cling to power." he said. "In view of the current wave of international criticism about how he stole the election, he might just as well want to swallow the opposition into his ranks and quieten opponents."

Major policy differences would have to be overcome. While Mr Tsvangirai is a major proponent of a free market economy with less state intervention, President Mugabe has already abandoned an IMF and World Bank sponsored economic structural adjustment programme in favour of a command economy.

Mr Tsvangirai advocates a sustainable land reform process to allow the commercial agriculture sector to flourish, but the president's wholesale seizures of white farms are returning Zimbabwe to a peasant subsistence economy.

While President Mugabe has promised to further nationalise factories and has rubbished any policy proposals that would attract foreign investment, Mr Tsvangirai's economic policies hinge on winning back the confidence of international investors and the donor community.

Mr Sithole equated the difference in policy and approach of the two rivals to that between night and day.

"While Mugabe remains entrenched in the dear leader mentality which makes his word final, Tsvangirai has shown a great inclination towards consultation and collective decision making," he said.

"He Mugabe has served with two deputies Joseph (Msika) aged 78 and (Simon) Muzenda who is 80. Trying to readjust to working with an energetic deputy who is only 50 and enthusiastic in terms of new ideas would be the tallest order for Bob."